Private Citizens' Suit To Enforce Landfill Ordinance Doesn't Affect Vital State Function

Wednesday, October 03, 2018 7:30 am
October 2018 - Volume 46 Number 10

A federal district court improperly abstained from hearing a challenge to a county solid waste ordinance because the corresponding state mandamus action to enforce that ordinance did not implicate an important state interest.

Facts: In 1984, Solano County, California passed a voter-enacted ordinance restricting the import of out-of-county solid waste to 95,000 tons per year. In 1992, the County stopped enforcing the ordinance after legal counsel concluded that the ordinance was likely an unconstitutional violation of the dormant Commerce Clause. The County then approved permit revisions for the two major solid waste facilities located within the County, giving the facilities implicit permission to import more than 95,000 tons of solid waste. Plaintiff Potrero Hills Landfill (Potrero Hills) was one of those landfills, and it now imports more than 600,000 tons of solid waste each year from outside the county, making it one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s three largest landfills.

Because the Potrero Hills was projected to reach capacity in 2011, it sought permission to expand its landfill from 320 to 580 acres. In 2002, the County approved the expansion project. Several environmental groups, including intervenor <[..]